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Microphone preamplifiers - can *YOU* hear the difference? (with audio)

Three mic preamps, one costing over $1500, another mid-price, another that cost just $5. Can *you* hear the difference?


Three mic preamps, one costing over $1500, another mid-price, another that cost just $5. Can you hear the difference? I'll admit straight away that this isn't a scientific test. It just kind of happened on the spur of the moment, hence the air conditioning noise in the background of these recordings. However, I think you will find the recordings interesting. Three different microphone preamplifiers were used. One has a list price of well over $1500, another costs around $200, the third costs less than $5. Yes, five dollars.

The obvious question is, can you tell which is which?

I made three recordings using each preamp in turn, then three more similar recordings with a different microphone at a greater distance, allowing more reverberation to be picked up. Let's label the mics A and B, the preamplifiers 1, 2 and 3. So here are the recordings, all in 16-bit .WAV format... (You should download the files and load them into your DAW for close listening).

A1 - A2 - A3 - B1 - B2 - B3

(Notice that the preamps are in the same order for both A and B mics.)


  1. Which is the most expensive preamplifier? 1, 2 or 3?
  2. Which is the least expensive preamplifier? 1, 2 or 3?
  3. Optional comments on the sound qualities you perceive.

Please post your answers in the comments section below. (If you're at all worried about getting the answers wrong, then you'd better give your name as 'anonymous'!)

UPDATE: This challenge is now closed. You can see the answers here...

By David Mellor Sunday January 8, 2006
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